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The defect of Arad, ver. 1 - 3.
The people murmur and are plagued with fiery serpents, ver. 4 - 6.
They are healed by looking on the brazen serpent, ver. 7 - 9.
They journey forward, ver. 10 - 20.
Conquer Sihon, ver. 21 - 31.
And Og, ver. 33 - 35.
1: King Arad - Or rather, the Canaanite King of Arad: for Arad
is not the name of a man, but of a city or territory. And he seems to be
called a Canaanite in a general sense, as the Amorites and others.
The south - Of Canaan, towards the east, and near the dead sea.
Of the spies - Not of those spies which Moses sent to spy the land,
for that was done thirty eight years before this, and they went so
privately, that the Canaanites took no notice of them, nor knew which
way they came or went; but of the spies which he himself sent out to observe
the marches and motions of the Israelites. Took some of them
prisoners - Which God permitted for Israel's humiliation, and to teach
them not to expect the conquest of that land from their own wisdom or valour.
2: I will utterly destroy them - I will reserve no person or thing
for my own use, but devote them all to total destruction.
3: They utterly destroyed them - Neither Moses nor the whole body
of the people did this but a select number sent out to punish that king and
people, who were so fierce and malicious that they came out of their own
country to fight with the Israelites in the wilderness; and these, when
they had done this work, returned to their brethren into the wilderness.
But why did they not all now go into Canaan, and pursue this victory?
Because God would not permit it, there being several works yet to be done,
other people must be conquered, the Israelites must be farther humbled
and tried and purged, Moses must die, and then they shall enter, and
that in a more glorious manner, even over Jordan, which shall be
miraculously dried up, to give them passage. Hormah - That is, utter
4: By way of the Red - sea - Which leadeth to the Red - sea, as
they must needs do to compass the land of Edom. Because of the way
- By reason of this journey, which was long and troublesome, and unexpected,
because the successful entrance and victorious progress which some of them
had made in the borders of Canaan, made them think they might have
speedily gone in and taken possession of it, and so have saved the tedious
travels and farther difficulties, into which Moses had again brought
5: Against God - Against Christ, their chief conductor, whom they
tempted, (1Co 10:19). Thus contemptuously did they speak of
Manna, whereas it appears it yielded excellent nourishment, because in
the strength of it they were able to go so many and such tedious journeys.
6: Fiery serpents - There were many such in this wilderness, which
having been hitherto restrained by God, are now let loose and sent among
them. They are called fiery from their effects, because their poison
caused an intolerable heat and burning and thirst, which was aggravated
with this circumstance of the place, that here was no water,(Nu 21:5).
8: A fiery serpent - That is, the figure of a serpent in brass, which
is of a fiery colour. This would require some time: God would not speedily
take off the judgment, because he saw they were not throughly humbled.
Upon a pole - That the people might see it from all parts of the camp, and
therefore the pole must be high, and the serpent large. When he looketh
- This method of cure was prescribed, that it might appear to be God's own
work, and not the effect of nature or art: and that it might be an eminent
type of our salvation by Christ. The serpent signified Christ, who was
in the likeness of sinful flesh, though without sin, as this brazen
serpent had the outward shape, but not the inward poison, of the other
serpents: the pole resembled the cross upon which Christ was lifted up for
our salvation: and looking up to it designed our believing in Christ.
9: He lived - He was delivered from death, and cured of his disease.
10: In Oboth - Not immediately, but after two other stations
mentioned, (Nu 33:43,44).
12: The valley of Zared - Or rather, by the brook of Zared, which
ran into the dead sea.
13: On the other side - Or rather, on this side of Arnon, for so
it now was to the Israelites, who had not yet passed over it.
Between Moab and the Amorites - Though formerly it and the land beyond it
belonged to Moab, yet afterwards it had been taken from them by
Sihon. This is added to reconcile two seemingly contrary commands of
God, the one that of not meddling with the land of the Moabites,(De 2:9), the other that of going over
Arnon and taking possession of the land beyond it, (De 2:24),
because, saith he, it is not now the land of the Moabites, but of the
14: The book of the wars of the Lord - This seems to have been some
poem or narration of the wars and victories of the Lord, either by: or
relating to the Israelites: which may be asserted without any prejudice
to the integrity of the holy scripture, because this book doth not appear
to have been written by a prophet, er to be designed for a part of the
canon, which yet Moses might quote, as St. Paul doth some of the
heathen poets. And as St. Luke assures us, that many did write an
history of the things done, and said by Christ, (Lu 1:1), whose
writings were never received as canonical, the like may be conceived
concerning this and some few other books mentioned in the old testament.
The brooks - The brook, the plural number for the singular, as the
plural number rivers is used concerning Jordan, (Ps 74:15),
and concerning Tigris, (Na 2:6), and concerning
Euphrates, (Ps 137:1), all which may be to called because
of the several little streams into which they were divided.
15: Ar - A chief city in Moab.
16: Beer - This place and Mattanah, Nahaliel, and Bamoth
named here, (Nu 21:19), are not mentioned among those places where they
pitched or encamped, (Nu 33:1-49). Probably they did not pitch or
encamp in these places, but only pass by or through them. I will give
them water - In a miraculous manner. Before they prayed, God granted, and
prevented them with the blessings of goodness. And as the brasen serpent
was the figure of Christ, so is this well a figure of the spirit, who is
poured forth for our comfort, and from him flow rivers of living waters.
17: Spring up - Heb. ascend, that is, let thy waters, which now
lie hid below in the earth, ascend for our use. It is either a prediction
that it should spring up, or a prayer that it might.
18: With their staves - Probably as Moses smote the rock with his
rod, so they struck the earth with their staves, as a sign that God would
cause the water to flow out of the earth where they smote it, as he did
before out of the rock. Perhaps they made holes with their staves in the
sandy ground, and God caused the water immediately to spring up.
20: Pisgah - This was the top of those high hills of Abarim.
21: Sent messengers - By God's allowance, that so Sihon's malice
might be the more evident and inexcusable, and their title to his country
more clear in the judgment of all men, as being gotten by a just war, into
which they were forced for their own defence.
22: Let me pass - They spoke what they seriously intended and would
have done, if he had given them quiet passage.
24: From Arnon - Or, which reached from Arnon; and so here is a
description or limitation of Sihon's conquest and kingdom, that is,
extended only from Arnon, unto the children of Ammon; and then the
following words, for the border of the children of Ammon was strong,
come in very fitly, not as a reason why the Israelites did not conquer
the Ammonites, for they were absolutely forbidden to meddle with them,(De 3:8),
but as a reason why Sihon could not enlarge his conquests to the
Ammonites, as he had done to the Moabites. Jabbok - A river by
which the countries of Ammon and Moab were in part bounded and
divided. Strong - Either by the advantage of the river, or by their
strong holds in their frontiers.
26: Was the city of Sihon - This is added as a reason why Israel
took possession of this land, because it was not now the land of the
Moabites, but in the possession of the Amorites. The former king
- The predecessor of Balak, who was the present king. See the wisdom of
providence, which prepares long before, for the accomplishing God's purposes
in their season! This country being designed for Israel, is before - hand
put into the hand of the Amorites, who little think they have it but as
trustees, till Israel comes of age. We understand not the vast reaches
of providence: but known unto God are all his works!
27: In proverbs - The poets or other ingenious persons, of the
Amorites or Canaanites, who made this following song of triumph over
the vanquished Moabites: which is here brought in, as a proof that this
was now Sihon's land, and as an evidence of the just judgment of God in
spoiling the spoilers, and subduing those who insulted over their conquered
enemies. Come into Heshbon - These are the words either of Sihon
speaking to his people, or of the people exhorting one another to come and
possess the city which they had taken. Of Sihon - That which once was the
royal city of the king of Moab, but now is the city of Sihon.
28: A fire - The fury of war, which is fitly compared to fire.
Out of Heshbon - That city which before was a refuge and defence to all
the country, now is turned into a great annoyance. It hath consumed Ar
- This may be understood not of the city Ar, but of the people or the
country subject or belonging to that great and royal city. The lords of
the high places - The princes or governors of the strong holds, which were
frequently in high places, especially in that mountainous country, and which
were in divers parts all along the river Arnon. So the Amorites
triumphed over the vanquished Moabites. But the triumphing of the
wicked is short!
29: People of Chemosh - The worshippers of Chemosh: so the God of
the Moabites was called. He, that is, their God, hath delivered up his
own people to his and their enemies; nor could he secure even those that had
escaped the sword, but suffered them to be carried into captivity.
The words of this and the following verse seem to be not a part of that
triumphant song made, by some Amoritish poet, which seems to be
concluded, (Nu 21:28), but of the
Israelites making their observation upon it. And here they scoff at the
impotency not only of the Moabites, but of their God also, who could
not save his people from the sword of Sihon and the Amorites.
30: Though you feeble Moabites, and your God too, could not resist
Sihon, we Israelites, by the help of our God, have shot, with
success and victory, at them, at Sihon and his Amorites.
Heshbon - The royal city of Sihon, and by him lately repaired,
Is perished - Is taken away from Sihon, and so is all his country,
even as far as Dibon.
32: Jaazer - One of the cities of Moab formerly taken from them
by Sihon, and now taken from him by the Israelites.
33: Og - Who also was a king of the Amorites. And it may seem
that Sihon and Og were the leaders or captains of two great colonies
which came out of Canaan, and drove out the former inhabitants of these
places. Bashan - A rich country, famous for its pastures and breed of
cattle, and for its oaks.